Govt preparing list of former ministers, bureaucrats who benefitted from Roshni Act

Will make public names of all beneficiaries: Officials
Govt preparing list of former ministers, bureaucrats who benefitted from Roshni Act
Representational Pic

Adhering to court directions, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has started the process to disclose details of all beneficiaries including former ministers, bureaucrats and prominent hoteliers, businessmen who have been vested land under the now scrapped Roshni Act.

A senior government official said that the government has already ordered revenue officials to cancel mutation under the Roshni Act. "We are preparing a list of beneficiaries, so far we have collected data of over 15,000 beneficiaries, including VIPS whose names will be uploaded on the government website after due vetting from concerned agencies."

The official said that following the investigation, it has come to fore that government land worth crores of rupees will be recovered.

"The court direction and subsequent government action has exposed the nefarious manner in which government land has been taken over by the rich and influential and converted into commercial use," he said.

"By illegal working of the government functionaries, out of the actual transfer of around 3,48,200 kanals of land under the Roshni Act, the major portion of over 3,40,100 kanals has been transferred free of cost as agricultural land."

"An in-depth inquiry of all transfers affected by the working of the Roshni Act, 2001 (and amendments thereto), Roshni Rules, 2007 and continuing encroachments of the public lands is absolutely imperative in public interest," the senior official said adding that "the damage by the illegal acts and omissions in the present case cannot be termed as mere loss to public interest but has to be treated as a shameless sacrilege and damage to national interest."

"The guilty need to be forthwith identified and proceeded against in accordance with law. The present case, therefore, is a fit case for enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation which is required to go into all aspects of the matter."

"Over the last 30-40 years, usurping government and forest lands through various means has been one of the biggest scams in Jammu and Kashmir. This has taken various forms both through supposedly legal means by enacting laws to regularize lands which have been encroached by the rich, wealthy and influential peoples or illegally through brazen encroachment of public land," official said.

He added: "In 2001, the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act 2001 popularly known as Roshni Act was passed providing for vesting of ownership of state lands to the persons, who were in occupation of such lands. With an aim to generate Rs 25,000 crore as regularization fee from the illegally occupied land, however it was pointed out an Auditor's general report that mere Rs 76 crore were recovered which raised alarm bells and finally the Court ordered CBI probe and directed the government to come up with the list of all the beneficiaries and upload it on official website."

He said that Roshni Act had proposed that the proprietary rights be given to the persons holding state land unauthorizedly till 1990 on payment of the cost equivalent to the prevailing market rate of the year 1990 because eviction of these lands is very difficult if not impossible because of the procedure established under law.

"However in 2005, the PDP Government led by Mufti Muhammed Sayed relaxed the cut off year to 2004. The Congress government led by Ghulam Nabi Azad, further relaxed the cut off year to the year 2007. The working of the Roshni Act, 2001, was effected completely arbitrarily, dishonestly and illegally. There exist glaring instances of under-valuation of the land."

"In 2007, rules were framed under the said Act whereby agricultural land was given away literally free of cost, urban land was given away at a huge discount in the name of rewards, rebates and incentives," said another top government official.

He added, "Further, the rules allowed change of use of even agricultural and forest lands to commercial use which is contrary to statutory provisions completely invalid and illegal. Therefore, the Rules themselves were contrary to the Act."

"These rules were used to give away the state land on a massive scale and the benefits given to many VIPs including politicians, political parties, bureaucrats and businessmen."

The J&K government on October 31 decided to declare all the actions taken under the Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, also known as the Roshni Act, under which 20 lakh kanals of land was to be transferred to existing occupants, as "null and void", and has decided to retrieve the land within six months.

"The J&K government has decided to implement the High Court order, where it declared the Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 as amended from time to time as unconstitutional, contrary to law and unsustainable," an official said.

As per the official the court has directed that if its directions are not complied with, the Secretary Revenue and the Divisional Commissioners of Jammu and Kashmir shall be held liable and proceeded against for Contempt of Court.

"It has further ordered that its judgment on the matter be placed before the Director CBI, who shall appoint teams of officers not below the ranks of Superintendents of Police assisted by other officers to conduct an in depth inquiry in the matters which are the subject matter of this order. On conclusion of the inquiry, the CBI shall register case(s) in accordance with law against the person(s) found culpable, proceed with the investigation(s) as well as prosecution(s) thereof."

"The CBI shall also inquire into the continued encroachments on State lands; illegal change of ownership/use; grant of licences on encroached State lands; misuse of the land in violation of the permitted user; raising of illegal constructions; failure of the authorities to take action for these illegalities; fix the responsibility and culpability of the persons who were at the helm of affairs, who were duty bound to and responsible for taking action; their failure to proceed in accordance with law against the illegalities and instead have permitted/ compounded the same, as also any other illegality which is revealed during the course of the enquiry wheresoever."

"The CBI shall specifically inquire into the matter of publication of the Roshni Rules, 2007 without the assent of the legislature. If this is found true, the CBI shall identify the persons responsible who have illegally and dishonestly published the same and proceed in the matter for their criminal liability."

In Srinagar, administration has identified a former finance minister, a Congress leader and prominent hotelier among the Roshni beneficiaries.

Former finance minister Haseeb Drabu and his three relatives Shahzada Banoo, Ajaz Drabu, Iftikhar Drabu, prominent businessman and congress leader KK Amla,  Rachna Amla, Veena Amla, Mushtaq Ahmad, former bureaucrat Muhammad Shafi Pandit and his wife Nighat Pandit, Syed Muzaffar Aga are among the beneficiaries of Roshni Act.

In Jammu, the list of encroached land other than Roshni which is physically encroached but not shown in revenue records includes Syed Akhoon, political leader National Conference (NC), MY Khan, Abdul Majid Wani, ex-minister Congress, Aslam Goni, political leader, Haroon Choudhary, political leader NC, Sajjad Kichloo, ex-minister of NC.  The list includes the names of several government employees and businessmen.

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